For many, broccoli is a necessary evil. It might even be the most popular unpopular vegetable. Even the late President George H.W. Bush was celebrated for hating broccoli.
But this verdant veggie is packed with nutrients. A member of the cabbage family, broccoli is has lots of fiber and vitamins. One cup has as much vitamin C as an orange. It's also always easy to find year round in supermarkets, which means that you can use it whenever you want. Lately, people are coming around to the tree-like veggie — in Australia, broccoli coffee is even a thing, and yes, they're called brocco-lattes.
But just because we consume a lot of it, doesn't mean we're cooking it correctly. In fact, one of the primary excuses picky eaters have for not liking broccoli boils down to the way it's been cooked.
"Broccoli is so delicious, when cooked right," chef Leslie Durso explained to TODAY Food. "But when cooked incorrectly, it can be soggy and bitter." Durso, who hosts "Accidentally Vegan," is also the self-professed plant nerd, Leslie the Lab Girl, from "Bill Nye the Science Guy."
"I've been plant-based since [I was] 7 years old," said Durso, who loves the flavor, color, crunch and nutrients provided by broccoli. "My parents used to call broccoli 'trees.'" One of her favorite ways to eat broccoli is with dipping sauces, including a cashew-nacho cheese.
When shopping for broccoli, Durso explained, "You want to look for a broccoli crown that has a beautiful, solid green color. Avoid crowns with yellow or brown spots. You also want your broccoli crowns and stems to be firm."
Aside from buying bad broccoli, the biggest mistake home cooks can make is failing to adjust their cooking time depending on the method used. Roasting takes significantly longer than boiling or steaming — but once you've overcooked your veggies, there's no turning back.
Whether pureed into soups, sautéed in a stir fry or simply seasoned with salt and pepper, broccoli is a wonderful staple to add to your diet. Here are Durso's five foolproof ways to cook broccoli.
How to steam broccoli
- Bring a pan of water to a boil. There should be about 1 inch of water. Add the florets to the pan when the water starts bubble.
- Cover the pot.
- Cook florets for 4-5 minutes, or until fork tender.
"This is a great way to cook broccoli for a stuffed baked potato or soup. Don’t forget to save the water to use for the stock," said Durso.
How to blanch broccoli
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. As you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil, prepare a large bowl of ice water and set it next to the stove.
- When your water comes to a boil, add 2 tablespoons of sea salt.
- Add the broccoli. Wait 60-90 seconds.
- Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon and drop the florets into the bowl of ice water.
- When the broccoli is completely cool, drain and pat dry.
"This method creates perfectly crispy and bright broccoli," Durso told TODAY. "It's perfect for broccoli salad or drizzled with lemon juice and served as a side dish." Blanching is a great method to use when you want colorful cooked broccoli.
How to boil broccoli
- Bring a large pot filled with 6 cups of water to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, add 2 tablespoons of sea salt and return to a boil.
- Add the broccoli florets and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Strain and serve.
Durso likes to toss boiled broccoli into pasta coasted with a lemon cream sauce.
How to roast broccoli
- Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.
- In a separate bowl, toss broccoli florets with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt or pepper, if desired.
- Spread the florets onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. The edges will get a little browned but they will be incredibly flavorful.
Durso serves roasted broccoli with Italian gremolata, a zesty mix of chopped herbs, and toasted pine nuts.
How to cook broccoli in the microwave
Though many people find microwaves convenient, Durso does not advise this technique. "I never feel like anything cooked in the microwave cooks evenly." But if you have no other choice, here's how to do it:
- Place the florets in a microwave-safe dish with 3 tablespoons of water.
- Cover the dish with its lid or a dinner plate that fits over the container.
- Microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until the florets are fork tender. Be very careful when removing the lid as there will be plenty of hot steam trying to escape.
If it's the summertime or you have easy access to a grill, Durso has another favorite method. "Instead of microwaving broccoli, try grilling it," said Durso. "Trim and cut the crown into quarters, lengthwise. Coat the pieces in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and grill for four to five minutes."
But of course the girl who grew up eating those tiny trees has nothing against eating broccoli raw, either. "You can dip it in just about anything!"